Olive Growing: Killer pathogen, Drought in Spain and Olive Fly decimates world harvest

This article it shows a lead into some of the current international olive growing issues.  Lucky we don’t have this pathogen in Australia!
For the 2015 Olive Harvest, Australian Olive Growers may be able to look at more opportunities to sell their oil this season, here’s why…

Plant germ in Europe is killing centuries-old olive trees in Southern Italy

A plant germ found in Europe for the first time is killing off centuries-old olive trees in southern Italy’s Apulia region, and researchers haven’t yet figured out how far the pathogen has spread.

Scientists found xylella fastidiosa, a bacterium native to the Americas, in plants across Lecce province in Apulia’s south and are now widening their search to all the region, Anna Maria D’Onghia, head of integrated pest management at the Mediterranean Agronomic Institute of Bari, said by phone today.

The pathogen, detected last month, is linked to die-back of olive trees over 8,000 hectares (19,768 acres) near the city of Lecce, the European Food Safety Agency reported two days ago. Apulia is Italy’s largest olive growing region with production of about 11 million metric tons last year, or 36 percent of the national crop, government statistics show.

It is a very important olive production area, of course, it means a big impact on producers, D’Onglia said. “The problem is evident because the biggest trees are declining. We are speaking about really ancient olive trees.”

The pathogen is wasting 500-year-old olive trees, the researcher said. The Bari institute is testing plants without signs of infection to determine a protective buffer zone. The germ may have been introduced via the import of ornamental plants, according to D’Onghia.

Xylella goes everywhere, the host range is so wide, D’Onghia said “We are researching how far the pathogen has moved from this area, or is still moving. Usually, when you see the diseased trees it’s too late.”

Read the full article at: Centuries-Old Italian Olive Trees Die as Scientists Track Killer – Bloomberg.

Olive Oil prices set to rise sharply after Andalusia Drought

The anticipation of poor harvest has already pushed up the wholesale price from EUR 2.40 to EUR 2.70 kg over the past few weeks.

Olive oil prices are expected to rise sharply after a prolonged drought in the world’s biggest producing region in southern Spain, at the same time as a blight has hit the crop in Puglia, Italy‘s main olive-growing area.

While there is still time for rain to save the day in Andalusia, as harvesting takes place from October to January depending on the olive variety and location, without better weather soon this year’s crop is predicted to be 40% down on the bumper 1.77 million-tonne harvest of 2013-14.

“Not even the most optimistic are predicting a million tonnes,” said David Erice of Spain’s Small Farmers Union. “We’re expecting something closer to 2012, when production was around 700,000 tonnes.”

Spain produces 50% of the world’s olive oil, with 73% of that coming from the province of Andalusia in the south and 16% from Catalonia in the north-east. In 2013 olive oil exports from Andalusia were worth‚ 1.5bn (£1.1bn).

The drought isn’t the only problem. Bumper harvests leave the trees exhausted, said Erice, and they produce far fewer olives the following year.

Anticipation of a poor harvest means that in the wholesale market, where it is priced per kg, virgin olive oil has already risen from €2.40 to €2.70 per kg over the past few weeks, according to Infaoliva, the Spanish olive oil federation. The drought in 2012 led to a 13% price rise.

Prices are predicted to rise by as much as 0.50c a litre although extra virgin olive oil retails in supermarkets at around‚¬3.00 a litre in Spain and is a popular loss leader in supermarket wars, to the detriment of producers who in recent years have complained that supermarkets have pushed the price down to below the cost of production. Some analysts predict that supermarkets will absorb any price hike in order to maintain their competitive edge.

Virgin olive oil futures for September are at their highest level since June 2013, and some suppliers say that speculators are contributing to the rise in futures prices by capitalising on the uncertainty caused by the drought. The bets they are making are driving prices higher.

There are also claims that some producers are withholding stock in anticipation of selling at a higher price later in the year. However, for all but the biggest producers, the olive oil business has become a no-win proposition. If the harvest is good, the price slumps; a poor harvest means selling much less for only slightly more.

The oil is exported principally to France, Portugal and Italy. Italy often repackages Spanish oil as “estate bottled”, giving consumers the impression that it is an Italian product. Italy is the second largest producer after Spain, accounting for 15% of world production, with Greece producing 13%.

This year Spain has overtaken Italy as the market leader in olive oil in the US and Japan. Worldwide demand for “liquid gold” has risen by 60% over the past 20 years, driven by increased demand in China, the US, Canada and Australia.

Read the full article at:  Olive Oil prices set to rise sharply after Andalusia Drought

Cost of olive oil set to rise by £2 a bottle, growers warn, after disastrous harvest in Italy

Bad crop: The olive fly lays its egg in a hollow in the olive and when hatched the larvae tunnels its way out gnawing at the flesh-destroying the fruit

The price of olive oil is set to soar after widespread failure of the annual harvest in large parts of Italy.  A wet summer in combination with fruit fly blight has led to some producers not harvesting at all this year.  The price is expected to rise by 2 pounds per bottle after production fell up to 80% in some areas of Italy.

Silvio Bandinelli of the Tuscan Olive Growers Coop said: “The new oil will cost 2-3 euro more per litre compared to last year, or an average of 10 euro a litre”

Some producers have decided not produce extra virgin because the flavour of the oil will be too acidic.

Read the full article at  Cost of olive oil set to rise by £2 a bottle, growers warn, after disastrous harvest in Italy

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